‘THE Kenna should be won and lost over a pub table groaning with empty pint glasses and dog-eared player lists’ were the words of the chairman this week in deciding London’s leading pub-based fantasy football league’s latest debacle.
The arguments over remaining budgets will no doubt rumble on, but effectively the outcome has answered the question over which managers should be favoured by the league: those who attend the pre-season auction over those who don’t.
The two camps had credible arguments. Those who turned up to the auction used their £100m budget in the time-honoured Kenna tradition, by attempting to buy eleven players through the fog of alcohol and the 50p game. They either make an outlay for the big names or take the shrewder approach of picking up less fashionble footballers and leaving themselves a sizable war chest for the first transfer window.
Those who did not attend were offered the chance to have players picked at random from the most well-thought-of dregs by the charts and graphs department’s new spreadsheet tool. At the minimum cost of £0.5m a player, the non-attendees would be left with unprecedented resources at the window, ultimately giving them first dibbs on such available talent as Angel Di Maria and Leonardo Ulloa.
The attendees said this was unfair. Why should someone who didn’t go through the emotional mangle of six hours in the upstairs room of a pub on a scorching August afternoon have a budget to eclipse the rest of the league?
The ire of those attendees had last week threatened to overturn the legitimate power of Kenna HQ. The Young Boys of Vauxhall manager led a vociferous faction that caused one league member to lock himself in his South London flat, declare martial law and claim his side would be placed top of the table until new leadership was installed at Kenna HQ. The Still Don’t Know Yet manager’s curtains are still reported to be twitching wildly. His neighbour’s cat, Mr Tibbs, is still missing.
The chairman ultimately came down on the side of those loudest voices, but the murmur of dissent from managers who did not attend the auction could still be heard.
They claimed that having been awarded a team automatically from the dregs of the players after the auction meant they needed the tremendous remaining budget to edge their way up the table. All three auction no shows – the managers of FC Testiculadew, Hoxton Pirates and Just Put Carles – are in the bottom five.
The chairman decided to award those three managers the average remaining budget of all the others – £17m. They now have the eighth highest spending power going into the transfer window. It is not enough, they say. Will the straitened managers come to the pub in three weeks’ time? Could the window turn ugly if they do? Only time will tell.
Of course, the Young Boys manager – with his paltry £4m fund and serious questions being asked of his decision to part with £20m for a misfiring Bojan Krkic – will claim ‘The No Show Three’ have been given too much. His case will be dismissed by the majority who see through his sedition as political ambitions in the Kenna boardroom.
For now the chairman appears to have regained control of the league and many see his solution as a common sense approach, but how quickly this snafu escalated will cause some concern in the corridors of Kenna HQ.
Kenna table (*awarded average remaining of managers who attended the auction)
Croydon. The word itself has become synonymous with the ills of British society.
‘Croydon facelift’ and ‘Croydon strobe’ are two examples of how putting the name of the Greater London borough in front of a word immediately turns it into a cruel parody.
So what about ‘Croydon tram’? For those unaware of that mode of transport, it could conjure up images of a nightmare conga snaking its way through the love triangles and DNA tests of the Jeremy Kyle Show studios.
But for a committed band of pub crawlers familiar with the buses, boats and underground lines of London transport, it represented the opportunity for a few drinks.
Meandering its way through the environs of Croydon from Beckenham Junction to Wimbledon, the 39 stops may not be classic spy tale, but there were enough pubs on the way to get a slice of life on the Kent borders.
Perhaps even a Croydon facelift would be spotted in its natural habit. And during spring mating season.
Almost 14 years after its opening, the Croydon Tramlink hosted its first ever recorded pub crawl. At 1pm on Saturday 12 April 2014, tipplers met at Beckenham Junction with the following itinerary:
Patrick’s, Beckenham Junction
Claret Freehouse, Addiscombe
The Tamworth Arms, Centrale
New Addington working man’s club, New Addington
The George, George Street
The Dog and Bull, Church Street
The Wandle Arms, Wandle Park
The Crown, Mitcham
The White Hart, Merton Park
The Alexandra, Wimbledon
In a world first, pubs would be rated on the quality of hand dryers in the gents. Irish Jonathan did the honours.
Afterwards it turned out drinkers travelled a mammoth 22 miles, surely the longest pub crawl to date.
A shortage of pubs in proximity to the tram network meant it was impossible to visit a pub for every stop. The group would have the chance to sample the unique delights of each boozer for around half an hour.
In the case of Patrick’s, the lasting impression given by this bar was the bar itself, which had a greasy sheen your hands took with them.
Like most flatpack Irish pubs, it looked like a down on his luck Leprechaun had been violently sick all over the walls and ceiling. The beer was no pot o’ gold either.
There were some plus points: lots of widescreen TVs hinted this would be a good place to watch sport, it’s very close to Beckenham Junction tram stop and there’s an excellent hand dryer in the gents. Although, perhaps a little too excellent…
Having finished their drinks and posed for Sutcliffe’s patented ‘outside the pub’ selfie, crawlers crossed the road to begin an epic tram journey.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 1/10 as only Guinness available (what do you expect from somewhere called ‘Patrick’s’?).
Boarding the tram for the first time that day, the party crackled with expectation. The bubble was burst when Sutcliffe started pulling out tram facts. Everyone realised he’d be at these all day.
South Norwood Country Park and Croydon driving range passed. The next intrepid stage of the journey arrived.
The Claret Freehouse is a stone’s throw from Addiscombe tram stop. From the outside it looks like an old restaurant hardly open for business, but once inside a fully functioning single-room boozer is found.
On the left a bar, at the back Sky Sports and on a right wall an impressive display of current and upcoming cask ales. All of which surround the Claret’s dedicated clientele, who seemed a little taken aback by the file of crawlers thrusting into their dimly lit snug.
A pint of Peroni greeted the lager drinker. In what’s becoming a rarity these days it wasn’t watered down. Sutcliffe was unusually positive about the ale on offer and the cheese rolls. A proper drinker’s pub.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 9/10 and probably the best I’ve seen south of Bradford.
Trams were running about every 10 minutes, so it wasn’t long before the crawl made it’s way to Croydon town centre.
The leafy suburbs left behind, this was the first taste of Croydon’s epicentre, and it wasn’t positive.
The Tamworth stands alone very close to Centrale tram stop, with a few steps leading up to the front door. Once through, the visitor is greeted by a bar, an odd set of patrons and an overpowering aroma, which upon tasting the Kronenbourg was partially explained.
Let this not be a reflection on the good names of the regulars, but none of the crawlers will visit this pub ever again.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 3/10 as it was a limited selection, but what there was available was quite good.
Emerging from the pungent odour of the Tamworth, crawlers were back on the tram again for the lengthiest jaunt of the day to New Addington.
4. Disappointment, New Addington
Over hills and through fields, this is the most rural leg of the network. New Addington itself is on the top of a hill, a kind of dystopian town planning nightmare, like the Rio favellas but without the sunshine, climate, pretty girls, bikinis, good footballers, glamourous location or enchanting music. All that’s left is the squalor.
Finding a pub in New Addington proved to be a task too much for the crawl. The Randall Tavern, of notorious former patronage, is the only recognised pub in the area, but too far from Fieldway tram stop for the crawl’s purposes.
A working men’s club is to be found next to the community centre, advertised by a neon OPEN sign. As the party approached at 4pm disaster struck. That’s when it shuts.
Barmen don’t come less friendly than the one in the New Addington working men’s club and he suggested we try the 21 Club around the corner, just past the tip.
Children playing pool and Argos gold greet visitors to the 21 Club, but alas it was a ‘members only’ bar. Snubbed, the crawl returned to the tram stop in low spirits and even lower blood/alcohol levels.
Ironically, despite being the oddest and least friendly bar inspected that day, it was the only one to have a Dyson Airblade in the gents.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: The promising bar closed just as we arrived. We sought refreshment at the nearby 21 Club and found little of it. Definitely for members only. This post apocalyptic boozer had the clientele of Mad Max 2, the decor of the Fuhrerbunker and atmosphere of 1984. Didn’t get a chance to check out the alcohol on offer but I suspect it was something along the lines of ‘Victory Gin’. The women were on the large side and looked like they regularly battered the weedy looking men into sexual submission. Maybe I could pick up a tip or two.
Almost an hour since their last round crawlers marched gasping into Croydon’s premiere Weatherspoon’s. The George is a giant reverse L-shape with a bar on the inside corner of the L at the front and another at the back. Flags of every country hung from the ceiling which may have been a nod to the nearby UK Border Agency headquarters.
Of the sea of four-seater tables only one was free, chiefly because most of them entertained a lone man drinking. The exercise of ordering from an exasperated and overwhelmed bar staff was comical.
After the disappointing mission to New Addington some were a little peckish and one of two would have eaten anything. Which was lucky.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 8/10 What can I say? It was a Wetherspoons with all of the usual trimmings. Good selection of amusingly titled guest ales and stressed bar staff but they can microwave a fine hotdog (that’s not a euphemism). Also a very good place to meet other solo bearded drinkers who have also given up on life.
Following the tram lines along George Street for a few minutes and turning left, crawlers were presented with the jewel in Croydon’s pub crown, The Dog and Bull.
Croydon residents were keen to point out the Dog and Bull’s credentials in the build up to the crawl and it didn’t disappoint. After the disappointment of New Addington and the contemptible familiarity of Weatherspoon’s, it felt like the crawl was getting back on track standing at the island bar.
The two barmen were the only ones all day to show an interest in the enterprise, and such enthusiasm was in evidence in more than just their chat. The establishment served a pint of Young’s tidier than a tsunami.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 3/10 Limited selection and pretty much the same as the Tamworth Arms. Smelt a little funny, but I think that might have been down to the market outside or the large pile of rough sleepers you had to step over top get into the place. Faded picture on the wall of the Queen Mother pulling a pint behind the bar. Probably taken on one of those ‘see how the serfs live’ walkabouts of which the Royals are so fond.
It’s a 10-minute walk from the Dog and Bull past Church Street and Reeves Corner tram stops to The Wandle Arms. The stroll takes in the site where the House of Reeves furniture store was razed to the ground during the London riots in 2011, now a white-picket-fenced square.
The Wandle Arms was the most charming and intimate pub on the crawl, and served one of the best pints of Guinness outside Dublin. The snug is like someone’s front room and has lots of interesting old branded water jugs hanging from the ceiling. Since that most rare occurrence on these days out – the sun was shining – tipplers opted for the two picnic tables on the street outside.
Despite lack of photo evidence, be assured the hand dryer in the gents was purely deocrative. An adjacent towel wetter than an otter’s pocket is the only option for those caught short.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating 1/10: Guinness only again. Interesting and friendly (in a passive aggressive way) little back street boozer. This is definitely a ‘Derry’ rather than ‘Londonderry’ sort of place though…
From Wandle Park the next few tram stops are in an industrial area before the welcome green of Mitcham Golf course. Sadly, a phone call a few weeks before discovered that despite its propinquity to Mitcham Junction tram stop, the clubhouse was not a public bar.
Is it a south Asian restuarant or is it a pub? The second royal portrait of the day gave no clue.
The ‘drinking area’ at the front felt like a takeaway and any moment a hurried man in a motorcycle helmet would barge through. The restaurant area and dancefloor could probably cater for weddings, wakes and bar mitzvahs. Certainly not a place to stand and drink after work or to spend Sunday afternoon with the papers.
The food smelt powerful. The hand dryer’s qualities remain a mystery.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 4/10 They only had Doombar (not a bad pint but pretty much the ‘oxygen of ales’). Great little place that can’t decide whether it wants to be a pub or a curry house. Why choose though? Big shrine to Her Majesty in the corner was a nice touch.
For the rest of crawl the chairman was not to live down a second bout of disappointment created when tipplers arrived at the White Hart to find it closed for a private party. It’s proximity to Merton Park tram stop and the cornucopia of prohibited buffet food inside visible from the twilit street almost fomented a full-scale rebellion.
Fortunately, the chairman’s leadership qualities shone through and before long the crawl found an alternative in the Wibbas Down Inn along the short walk to Wimbledon. It was the outing’s second Weatherspoons pub, and a busy but mediocre one at that.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: The White Hart was closed for a private function and another one of the chairman’s fails. The Wibbas Down Inn was another Wetherspoons which was pretty much a carbon copy of the earlier one except without the microwaved hotdog this time. Ale 8/10
Recollections are dim of Wimbledon’s flagship boozer. It was large. There were lots of people there. It was a Young’s pub.
By this point only Sutcliffe still seemed to be with the programme.
Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 7/10 I have only a vague memory of this place which means I was probably totally steamed or that it was pretty unmemorable.
After the Alex, crawlers repaired to the nearby Wimbledon Tandoori for a hot debrief. The party were cheered by the waiter taunting Sutcliffe and his potentially-fatal nut allergy.
It’s fair to say that the length of the crawl and the irregular distances between pubs led to a desultory atmosphere late on. Due to events beyond the control of crawl organisers – notably the Emerson World Cup and some weddings abroad over the summer – it has taken more than five months to publish this report of the day, but lessons are still fresh in the mind.
When it comes to next month’s autumn offensive, careful consideration will be given to pacing. Pubs at regular intervals building to a crescendo of drunken bonhomie are the key to a successful day’s boozing.
“We turn now to events in the Kenna League where a cabal of managers has threatened to overthrow the established power of the league. Our political editor Nick Robinson is outside Kenna HQ.”
“Thanks, Hugh. As you can see I’m standing outside Kenna HQ, the epicentre of events today where an attempted coup d’etat was made on the league leadership of London’s leading pub-based fantasy football competition.
“From the outside it just looks like a building on a normal London street, but inside the wheels of administration are just about still turning after a small group of managers led by the Young Boys of Vauxhall boss moved for a vote of no confidence in the league chairman.
“It’s understood that discontent has been bubbling away under the surface of the Kenna for some time.
“Critics of the chairman say his rule over the league has become ever more authoritarian in recent months.
“They say that while in appearance the Kenna governing body has maintained the bureaucracy that so frustrates managers trying to get a reprieve from the Titus Bramble forfeit process, the chairman has been stripping back the checks and balances of the apparatus and placing more and more power in the notoriously ruthless manager experiences department.
“On the face of it, this shadowy arm of the Kenna is responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the league, but stories of abductions, beatings, blackmail and even torture are all too commonplace.
“It is thought the department is increasingly bypassing league rules and regulations to ensure swift actions against malcontents, on orders thought to come straight from the chairman’s office.
“Today’s attempted coup was sparked by disillusionment amongst a small group of managers unhappy at those who did not attend the pre-season auction in August, or to be more specific at their remaining budgets ahead of next month’s first transfer window.
“Here’s the statement released by the Young Boys manager today, which explains the origins of the conflict:
With the first transfer window nearly upon is quite clear that mangers who did not attend the first auction will have a distinct advantage with a much larger transfer budget, whilst those who did attend will be punished for turning up, getting drunk and making ludicrous bids on average players (which is basically the point of the Kenna) adding to the feeling of growing disillusionment of the hard working mangers towards Kenna HQ. Furthermore, the problem has been exacerbated by the ever increasing authoritarian Kenna HQ’s decision not to return the full amount paid for a player when they are released for transfer. This is just another example of Kenna HQ becoming more and more removed from the needs of the normal, everyday, Kenna manager.
“How did the league respond? Well, earlier this afternoon the chairman did address members of the press outside Kenna HQ.
“He dismissed the Young Boys manager and ‘his pernicious little band conspirators and Charlie Chesters’ as troublemakers. He assured the media he was in full control of the league and that this was ‘yet another pathetic attempt by the Young Boys manager to wrest power’. He pointed out that under ‘the gentle teasing of my firm hand the league has grown to become a towering feature of the fantasy football landscape’.
“The chairman then went on to utterly dismiss any notion that he had lost touch with the everyday Kenna manager. He pointedly said, and I quote ‘we are dealing with the issue of remaining budgets. This is complicated, sports administration and far too complex to go into here. We’ll sort it out and send our resolution to Ceefax for distribution’, although he made no indication of how the issue would be addressed.
“Of course, there is another angle here. It is widely known in the Kenna that the Young Boys manager has been obsessed with taking power at Kenna HQ for some time and maintains that his origins as a Welshman are keeping him from the chair. Most moderates consider the issue of remaining transfer budgets a smokescreen for the Young Boys manager’s true ambitions.
“With only four weeks to go until the transfer window, the bout looks far from over, but after this round the chairman still has the upper hand.
“This Nick Robinson, for BBC News, outside Kenna HQ. Back to you in the studio, Hugh.”
“Thank you, Nick.
“And finally, as the serious business of the Kenna League is played out, one manager is taking an alternative view of the matter. We now join BBC News reporter Alice Bandherkravi in south London.”
“Thank you, Hugh. I’m here in Wandsworth where Kenna League member the Still Don’t Know Yet manager has barricaded himself in his flat.
“It appears that when he heard news of the attempted boardroom rebellion he took it to mean a full-scale civil one.
“Neighbours have reported seeing the Teesider dressed in a tinfoil hat roaming around the premises claiming that, and I quote, ‘as a temporary measure during this time of unrest my side are now top of the Kenna’.
“Of course, he’s currently mid table and even the non-football fan could tell you that he’s not going to get much higher than that.
“Police were attending the scene, but have since stood down when it was decided the manager remained intent on locking himself in his house and occasionally shouting ‘Stay in your homes. Do not panic’ from a first floor window.
“This is Alice Bandherkravi, for BBC News, outside a deranged Northerner’s house. Back to you, Hugh.”
Season preview in one sentence: In a bid to pick week-in-week-out players and grind out consistent performances, the chairman has assembled an unspectacular side heavily reliant on the fitness of Sergio Aguero.
Dawson, C (TW1)
Chambers, L (TW1)
Stones, J (TW2)
Talbot, F (TW2) (Bramble)
Peres, A (TW2)
First transfer window – 17 October 2014
Dawson, C – defender, WBA – £4m
Chambers, L – defender, ARS – £0.5m
Kaboul, Y – defender, TOT – £8m
Out McAuley, G – defender, WBA – £0m Sakho, M – defender, LIV – £0m Davies, B – defender, TOT – £0m
FAT Ladies are rumoured to tabling a desperate bid for former on-field utility man Dion Dublin at the first Kenna transfer window next month.
Finding his side bottom of the league after four competitive weeks of the competition, the Fat Ladies manager is said to be scrabbling around for striking options with Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke injured.
Snapping himself with Dublin this week, the manager said: “The season hasn’t got off to a great start. I’m missing my strikers and only one of my defenders [Coloccini] is getting a game, and he got four put past him last week. Dion offers us cover all over the pitch and his creativity, both with the ball and The Dube, will give us some attacking rhythm.”
Fat Ladies were crowned Kenna champions in 2007, but the manager has only just rejoined the league after a four-year absence.
Many see this latest news as further proof the Fat Ladies manager is struggling to adapt back in the Kenna League.
Season preview in one sentence: Unable to attend the auction because of commitments in ‘Durrby’, the Somali’s automatically-generated side shows flickers of guile, and leaves most wondering whether he could have done better in person.
Fabianski, L (TW2)
Davies, B (TW2)
Manquillo, J (TW2)
Coloccini, F (TW2)
de Laet, R (TW1)
Song, A (TW2)
Cllr Martin Kimber (TW2) (Bramble)
Gary Glitter (TW2) (Bramble)
Welbeck, D (TW2)
Ings, D (TW2)
First transfer window – Friday 17 October 2014
Wright, R – goalkeeper, MCY – £2m (Bramble)
de Laet, R – defender, LEI – £3m
Wright-Phillips, S – midfielder, QPR – £4m
Evans, C – striker, OLD – £4m (Bramble)
Out Robles – goalkeeper, EVE – £0m Upson, M – defender, LEI – £0m Lampard, F – midfielder, MCY – £0m Campbell, J – striker, ARS – £0m
Out Wright, R – goalkeeper, MCY – £0m Dier, E – defender, TOT – £0m Wilson, M – defender, STO – £0m Delaney, D – defender, CRY – £0m Wright-Phillips, S – midfielder, QPR – £0m Januzaj, A – midfielder, MUN – £0m (lost under Titus Bramble ruling) Ramirez, G – midfielder, HUL – £0m (lost under Titus Bramble ruling) Zarate, M – striker, WHU – £0m Ched Evans – striker, TBR – £0m
Season preview in one sentence: Retreating ever further from public life into the shadows of tactical Bramblerdom, the defending double champion, Emerson World Cup victor and all-round ‘Dark Overlord’ of the Kenna still made his eerie presence felt at the auction in the form of half of case of champagne, and retains the budget to command bidding for Radamel Falcao at the transfer window.
Thacker, J (TW2) (Bramble)
Blind, D (TW1)
Larsson, S (TW1)
Cuadrado, J (TW2)
Ramirez, G (TW2)
Berahino, S (TW1)
Benteke, C (TW1)
First transfer window – Friday 17 October 2014
Blind, D – defender, MUN – £5m
Larsson, S – midfielder, SUN – £7m
Adam, C – midfielder, STO – £0.5m
Berahino, S – striker, WBA – £10m Benteke, C – striker, AVL – £0.5m
Out Agger – defender, LIV – £0m Fellaini – midfielder, MUN – £0m Wanyama – midfielder, SOT – £0m Torres – striker, MIL – £0m Podolski – striker, ARS – £0m
Season preview in one sentence: Asmir Begovic, Sylvain Distan and Olivier Giroud all find their services employed at the club for a second successive season: the rumour is they just couldn’t say ‘no’ to Panda…